The star of this month’s #PeopleOfNRM is Wendy Mann of Geraldton Air Charter, who recently took our Biodiversity team on a flight over the region, assessing revegetation patches from above.
Wendy grew up in the small town of Gutha, north of Morawa in Western Australia. After living in Mullewa and Moonyoonooka, Wendy settled in sunny Geraldton.
In 1977, Wendy took to the skies to learn how to fly! The following year Wendy obtained her Private Pilot’s Licence and then her Commercial Licence three years later in 1981.
Wendy started her own business in 1997, Geraldton Air Charter where she is the Chief Pilot & Managing Director. She says her journey into the world of aviation came unexpectedly. After her husband Bob, a machinery dealer in Mullewa, traded two new tractors for a plane and found themselves needing someone to fly it.
Since then, Wendy has seen some breathtaking places from the air and says the Northern Agricultural Region is a beautiful place to fly.
“There is lots to see from the air in our region – the Abrolhos Islands never fail to amaze with beautiful scenery, marine and bird life, beautiful coral, seasonal whale migration,” said Wendy.
Unfortunately, the industry has been heavily impacted by COVID-19 related travel and tourism restrictions. Getting back on top of business has been a full-time job.
“At the moment we are endeavouring to rebuild our business after the devastating effects of the international borders as a large part of our business was tourism generated from overseas visitors.”
While incredibly rewarding, Wendy says learning to fly will be a tough gig for future pilots with COVID-19 hanging around.
“Many air charter operators such as our company have had to reduce staff numbers due to the COVID situation – we had to put off twelve people in 2020,” said Wendy.
“It has always been difficult for a new pilot to secure a first job, and it is so much harder now.”
However, Wendy says teaching new pilots is one of the most rewarding parts of her job, and she delights in seeing her students moving onto greener pastures.
“I love to be able to mentor younger pilots, as we are a company that has given many new pilots their first job and I love that I hear from these pilots who have gone on to fly for large airlines.”
When it comes to getting involved in the aviation industry, Wendy says learning to fly is challenging and a fantastic achievement that requires dedication and time to ensure it is done safely.
“Flying is rewarding and interesting and a pilot should learn something new every time he or she flies.”